Microsoft Weekly: Revenue's up, patches available, Xbox features soon attainable

Not only has the end of another week come by, but also the end of a fiscal quarter for the Redmond giant, which means we get to see how the company performed in Q3. Apart from that, there’s the set of cumulative updates for Windows 10, some upcoming Xbox software features, and more. Be sure to find all that, and the usual bit extra, in your Microsoft digest for the week of April 20-26.

Up goes the revenue

For the most part, we’ve seen a constant increase in revenue overall from Microsoft, and that trend has been carried over to Q3 2019 as well, with its 14% improvement.

The headline feature was the aforementioned 14% revenue increase year-over-year, which for the third quarter of 2019 (ending March 31) was $30.6 billion. Operating income also climbed by 25% to $10.3 billion, and net income registered a 19% increase to $8.8 billion.

Microsoft’s three main categories saw improvements too: Productivity and Business Processes had a revenue of $10.2 billion (14% increase YoY), Intelligent Cloud brought in $9.7 billion (22% up YoY), and More Personal Computing brought in $10.7 billion (an 8% increase).

In the first category, the main driver of the increase was LinkedIn with a revenue jump of 27%, followed by sessions growing 24% with “record levels of engagement”. Furthermore, Office Commercial products and cloud services grew by 12% - owing to a 30% increase in revenue from Office 365 Commercial and Office commercial seats growing 27%. Because of the shift to the cloud, Office commercial product revenue dropped 19%.

Office Consumer products and services grew 8% in terms of revenue thanks to recurring subscription revenue, while the number of Office 365 subscribers rose to 34.2 million (0.9 million more than the previous quarter). Dynamics revenue was up 13%, and Dynamics 365 revenue grew by 43%.

In terms of the Intelligent Cloud category, Server Products and Cloud Services grew by 27% as far as revenue was concerned, Azure revenue was up an impressive 73%, while server products saw an increase of 7%, and enterprise services grew by 4%.

The More Personal Computing ‘bucket’, so to speak, is where we find the Windows OEM Pro revenue which increased 15%, with non-Pro revenue declining by 1%. Windows commercial products and cloud services saw an increase of 18%, Surface revenue was up 21% compared to last quarter, and gaming revenue grew by 5%. In this gaming category, Xbox software and services revenue was up 12%, and Xbox Live monthly active users increased by 7% to a total of 63 million. No details were shared in regards to hardware revenue.

Finally, Search actually grew a decent 12%, and that is excluding traffic acquisition costs.

Down go the patches

Patch Tuesday may have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean cumulative updates won’t be showing up. Lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened this week, as every single variant of Windows 10 – apart from 1511 and 1809 – got a patch, so there’s a lot to unpack. If you’re on Microsoft’s latest OS endeavor, here’s what you need to be on the lookout for:

  • April 2018 Update (1803): KB4493437, build 17134.753 – fixes the issue around IE and sub-resource download over HTTP/HTTPS, as well as the one related to Custom URL Schemes for Application Protocol handlers. In addition, there are a number of Office-related patches, as well as fixes for time and date-related issues around the Japanese Era, and fixes for RDSH deployment failure, SMB shares, UWP apps, roaming user profiles, and more.
    • Known issues: Problems using the PXE to start a WDS server configured to use Variable Window Extension; Operations like rename that are performed on folders on a Cluster Shared Volume may fail with the ‘STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC0000A5)’ error.
  • Fall Creators Update (1709) Education, Enterprise: KB4493440, build 16299.1127 – broadly the same changelog as that of 1809.
    • Known issues: Only the second one described for 1809, relating to Cluster Shared Volumes.
  • Creators Update (1703): KB4493436, build 15063.1784 – similar changelog to 1709.
    • Known issues: the same known issue as 1709.
  • Anniversary Update (1607), Server 2016: KB4493473, build 14393.2941 – similar changelog to the ones above, with the only things in addition being fixes related to Storage Spaces Direct clusters, Cluster Aware Update, and more.
    • Known issues: In addition to the two known issues described for 1803, there are two other ones: one relates to the ‘2245 (NERR_PasswordTooShort)’ error after installing KB4467684, while the other relates to SCVMM being unable to enumerate and manage local switches on the host post-update.
  • Windows 10 LTSC (1507): KB4498375, build 10240.18187 – the only changes are in regards to date and time-related issues for the new Japanese Era and various things affected by it.
    • Known issues: This has the same known issue present in 1703 and 1709.

Since we touched on the subject of updates, a bit of news concerning the upcoming May 2019 Update has come out, starting with the updated CPU requirements. While there hasn’t been any change in terms of supported chips, the absence of Ryzen 3000 series and the Snapdragon 8cx is noteworthy. The former may just be an accidental omission, while the latter may be coming with the launch of 19H2, since it’s slated for release later in 2019.

Another interesting tidbit relates to the minimum storage requirement, which with the advent of 1903 (or the May 2019 Update) is set to rise to 32GB for both 32-bit and 64-bit flavors. As folks may know, the minimum previously was 16GB for 32-bit and 20GB for 64-bit variants of Windows. What needs to be underlined here is that the updated figure isn’t reflective of how much space the OS will take, rather what Microsoft is recommending the minimum total storage space should be.

Speaking of storage, if you’re on 1803 or 1809 and you have either an external USB or SD card attached during the upgrade to 1903 – which folks on MSDN have been able to trigger -, the upgrade process will not continue. This only happens if you insert the USB or SD card during the installation process, which will obviously trigger the process of drive letter reassignment. Simply removing the external storage media and restarting the upgrade should work just fine.

It needs to be said that since this particular feature update will be rolling out next month – if everything goes smoothly -, Nvidia has already added support for it via its 430.39 WHQL driver which is available now.

In related news, it was discovered a couple of weeks ago that in the merging of the Fast and Skip Ahead rings of the Insider Program, folks that were on build 18362.53 of 19H1 were simply unable to upgrade to the newly released 18875 build from the 20H1 branch. That has now been fixed with the advent of KB4497093, a cumulative update which brings the build string to 18362.86.

Indeed, the fix came just in the nick of time as Microsoft pushed out build 18885 to the Fast ring yesterday, bringing forward improvements to Your Phone – which now has an expanded list of supported devices and notification syncing with your PC. More languages have now been added to the list of supported ones for dictation, and Insiders which have Windows set to a language other than English have the option to browse only feedback in English starting with Feedback Hub v 1.1.903 that’s now rolling out. There’s also now a command in Narrator (specifically Narrator + S) which will give you a webpage summary covering links, landmarks and headings.

There are of course some fixes, with perhaps the most interesting one being for the USB and SD card bug mentioned a few paragraphs earlier. That’s fixed, along with the layout of the App Volume and Device Preferences page, the post install setup message that unexpectedly appeared some time after logging in, Windows Hello signing you right back in just as you walked away after locking your PC, and more. As this is pre-release software there are known issues, among which the now classic one related to anti-cheat software in games, as well as the Realtek SD card reader one. In addition, there are bugs related to enhanced session VMs, the dragging of emoji and dictation panels, Tamper Protection in Windows Security potentially being turned off post-update, and certain Start Menu features not being localized in FR-FR, RU-RU, and ZH-CN.

Features that the Xbox snatches

In contrast with Windows 10, the Xbox software gets updated far more frequently than the twice a year cadence of the desktop OS. While yes, the console does match the two big feature drops per year – as evidenced in the April 2019 Xbox Update -, there are smaller updates pushed in-between like the upcoming versions 1905 and 1910.

Those in the Skip Ahead section of the Preview Alpha ring are testing 1910 – due out in October -, while those in the regular Alpha ring are testing 1905, which should be made available next month. Both builds have some minor bug fixes, but a quality of life improvement present in both concerns game sorting under My Games & Apps. No longer will “a” or “the” be considered when alphabetically sorting games, which means that titles like The Witcher 3 will now reside under W instead of T.

Bringing the subject back to features coming in the near feature with 1905. Beyond the better sorting mentioned above, your friends list will now show which platform your friends are gaming from, with icons for PC, console, and mobile. These will only show up for platforms you are not using, meaning that if you’re on console, you’ll only see an icon if your friends are playing on PC or mobile, and so on.

In addition, Microsoft will be brining message requests, as well as the ability to create a ‘play later’ list for your games. The self-explanatory capability will be manageable via console or the Game Pass mobile app.

Folks who use Mixer as their preferred streaming platform will be happy to know that its AI-powered rewards program, dubbed Loot, is slated for launch on April 30. While the rewards are redeemable on any gaming platform and can be seen over on the “My Loot” page, this particular program won’t be available for all channels. Furthermore, the program is limited to a single reward code per account per unique Loot opportunity.

We cap this section off with something that is related to that same date of April 30, and that’s the arrival of the Sea of Thieves Anniversary Update. What ended up happening it seems is that Microsoft accidentally unveiled an Anniversary Edition bundle a few days early. While the bundle was listed for $49.99 yesterday, the company seems to have caught onto the mistake, as the store page features a disclaimer stating the current lack of availability.

The Fast ring

Hot corner

Hot corner is a section of The Fast ring dedicated to highlighting five Microsoft-related stories that haven’t been covered over here, but might be of interest.

  • Azure Backup now supports the moving of Recovery Services vaults.
  • The second preview of the Azure Services App Authentication library, version 1.2.0, is now available.
  • There’s now a governance setting for cache refreshes in Azure Analysis Services.
  • Reserved capacity and software plans in Azure SQL Data Warehouse are now generally available.
  • The backend of Azure Notification Hubs has been updated to support Firebase Cloud Messaging migration.

Logging off

We end the column on a bit of a sad note for what is probably one of the most briefly available features in Windows 10.

That feature is of course Sets, which was included for a bit in preview versions of Redstone 4 (the April 2018 Update), then preview versions of Redstone 5 (the October 2018 Update), afterwards being pulled altogether. If that didn’t necessarily mean it was dead, a tweet by Senior PM Rich Turner has confirmed this until now not confirmed information.

What’s specifically being said is that the shell experience isn’t present anymore, but that the addition of tabs is high on the company’s to do list.

This could mean that Microsoft simply plans to add tabs to its upcoming and as of yet pretty rough and hidden UWP File Explorer. What’s certain is that the current implementation of Sets is pretty much dead, though some future incarnation of it may return at a later date.

In true Windows tradition of providing multiple ways to achieve the same thing, Sets was one of multiple methods to group together windows by task, if you will. Then again, there’s also the taskbar which has been there for ages, and the newer virtual desktops. In that context, Sets seemed like nothing more than a short-lived novelty.

Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.

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